Carbon Fiber and Wind Energy in San Francisco Bay

Carbon Fiber Wingsail from Wind+Wing

Carbon Fiber Wingsail from Wind+Wing Technologies

Wind+Wing Technologies has proposed a revamp of the ferry system in San Francisco Bay—with carbon fiber at its core.

Here’s their case: An estimated 270,000 cars travel back and forth across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge each day. Thousands more commuters and tourists use passenger ferry boats, with some ferries using hundreds of gallons of diesel daily. Fuel consumption and resultant emissions have reached an all-time high. Could old-school methods to harness the wind make a difference in such a congested locale?

Wind+Wing put carbon fiber and composites technology to task. And it seems to be working.

Much like that seen in this past year’s America’s Cup yacht race, their proposal includes a carbon fiber wing attached to a catamaran sailing vessel. Rather than the traditional cloth sail, the carbon wing—as tall as the boat is long—features two, precisely tailored hard sides, doubling the power of a canvas sail. What’s more, the “wingsail” also features a solar-powered computer which can be switched on and off, based on need. When activated, it rotates to capture an optimal amount of wind, churning power to the boat.

The carbon wingsail also features a feathering system by way of a vertical tail, or trim tab, at its peak. This tail controls the angle at which the sail harnesses the wind. If it can make power for the boat, it will. If not (no wind), it simply feathers and becomes a benign part of the wing.

Carbon Fiber Wingsail in Workshop

For now, the wingsail measures 45 feet tall and 10 feet wide, weighing about 600 pounds. Current testing with the trimaran (a catamaran with three hulls instead of two) reveals that the vehicle makes no compromise in speed compared to current ferry times, and delivers a fuel savings that can reach up to 40 percent.

But design changes will be in the works for the wingsail to be considered viable. Commercial ferry boats dwarf the current test vehicle. But Jay Gardner, top salty dog at Wind+Wing, envisions scaling the design to larger boats, complete with two (rather than one), much larger wingsails able to deliver the same fuel efficiency boost to a 500-passenger ferry. With carbon fiber construction, the additional weight would be adequately supported by a much larger vessel.

Of course, this proposed wind-assisted ferry system, a hybrid of sorts, is not completely free of motors. But Wind+Wing Technologies sees the potential for less fuel usage, smaller motors, and cleaner air on the San Francisco Bay horizon. Tests have brought promising results, so stay tuned. It’s made possible, in part, by the lightweight strength and durability of the carbon fiber wing!

Where efficiencies are concerned, composites like carbon fiber and fiberglass have made a substantially positive difference in both wind energy and the transportation. Learn more about the weight savings for high strength and durability of these reinforcements when you visit product pages, available at

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